The question? Would he be willing to share a five-bedroom luxury vacation villa on the water with others who shared his same interests but whom he’d never met?
“I answered a big fat yes,” Heady said.
That emphatic yes led him to create Naples-based VeryUs, which he’s marketing as a way to unlock luxury vacation rentals for less than luxury hotel prices.
“We’ve developed a system that allows travelers and meeting attendees to split the cost of a house,” Heady said. “But really it’s not about just the eCommerce side of the business but the brand.”
The platform will enable travelers to rent vacation homes together, one room at a time. “It’s like Airbnb, without the B&B,” Heady said.
The travelers would have to check in on the same day and check out on the same day.
“There’s nothing like it,” Heady said. “I can promise you.”
On Monday the startup launched a four-state pilot test that will allow travelers who share common interests to book vacation rentals together around 10 events — from Comic Con in San Diego and the U.S. Open Golf championship in Oakmont, Pennsylvania, to Art Basel in Miami and the PGA Championship in Springfield, New Jersey.
The rentals will be advertised on VeryUs’ website, www.very.us and will be shared through social media, with Facebook pages created around the events.
Heady, a graduate of Roger Williams University in Rhode Island with a degree in design communications, knows a thing or two about the hospitality industry. His family has operated a bed-and-breakfast in New England for more than 30 years.
“I’ve met guests from all over the world,” he said.
On the technology side, Heady, 39, also has 18 years of experience as a software designer, having worked for such notable companies as NBCUniversal and Sony. He said he originated three social patents for Sony.
“I’ve definitely had my fair share of building on other people’s dreams,” he said.
With VeryUs, he wants to build on his own dreams. He started the company in July and hasn’t looked back.
“I went all in. I left a six-figure job. I was working for another startup. It just wasn’t my vision. I was living someone else’s dream.”
For now, the company’s headquarters is Heady’s home. Asked how he came up with the company’s name, he said, “It’s not about you. It’s not about me. It’s about us as a group. It’s very much about us.”
Heady isn’t alone in his new venture. His team includes Ryan Heinemeyer, 26, a company co-founder and vice president of marketing.
The duo met at Venture X, a trendy co-working spot in North Naples where Heady worked for MassiveU, a mobile learning platform, and Heinemeyer handled marketing for Ezderm, a software developer for the dermatology industry.
“He’s my millennial feedback,” Heady said. “He validates a lot for me, actually. He’s smart as a whip.”
Heinemeyer sees a lot of value in the concept. He likes to ski in Park City, Lake Tahoe and Vail, and VeryUs would open up opportunities for him to meet others with the same interests who can share the cost of a vacation rental with him. He also would rather attend an out-of-town event with a friend.
“I don’t want to be a loner,” he said. “This kind of gives me the chance to stay with guys or girls, depending on what the trip may be and at least have a friend that is staying with me who is interested in doing the same things.”
The VeryUs team also includes four engineers in Europe.
In April, VeryUs.com announced a partnership with rented.com, a company that connects homeowners with professional property managers. The partnership is designed to help vacation rental owners and property managers capture more bookings, while helping VeryUs.com get its name out.
“We’re all about having our managers and homeowners try to maximize their income,” said Monika Haebich, an associate for rented.com. “We saw a lot of potential in VeryUs and how it’s approaching rentals in the industry. It’s a new approach to sharing. It’s a great way to get more guests in these homes. We have a lot of confidence they will do pretty well.”
Through pilot tests, Heady is looking to prove his business model before building an online marketplace. He plans to use the data he gets from those tests to woo investors, who are needed to fully develop the concept, he said.
Heady sees the opportunity to make money in two ways. Property management companies could put the VeryUs widget on their own websites and pay a flat monthly fee for it, or they could choose a performance-based model and pay a fee to VeryUs for every booking the company generates for them.
Heady wishes there was something like VeryUs when he was trying to plan a getaway with his wife in 2012 to the Turks and Caicos Islands and had to cancel his plans because most of his friends backed out and they could no longer afford to go.
The letdown is what led Heady to ask himself whether he’d be willing to share a vacation home with strangers who had the same interests.
“The world has never seen what we’re doing, and they are about to,” Heady said. “A lot of people are going to be shocked. A lot of people are going to be happy. A lot of people are going to be anxious. It’s going to be a mixed bag.”